JASON Wilcox believes a dream Wembley double would be a fitting finale for Blackburn Rovers’ long-suffering supporters – insisting only football is capable of delivering such fairytale storylines.
A Premier League title winner with Rovers during the club’s ‘golden era’ in the mid-1990s, Wilcox has watched the club’s decline under owners Venky’s with real sadness but is hopeful the worst is now behind them.
Wilcox, who is now working as a coach for in Manchester City’s youth set-up, is adamant Rovers could surprise everyone by actually winning the FA Cup, but he knows the priority has to be promotion.
Ahead of tomorrow’s visit of another of his former clubs Leeds United, Wilcox knows a victory is crucial as Rovers look to bridge the seven-point gap between themselves and the play-offs.
With an FA Cup quarter final at Millwall standing in their way of a Wembley semi final, Wilcox can sense the excitement around the place growing and admits the supporters deserve a return of some good times.
He said: “It has been a long hard slog for the supporters and they have been through a lot but hopefully they are finally getting their rewards for sticking by the club.
“We all know what has happened over the past couple of years and it has been sad to see but it wouldn’t surprise me now if they go all the way in the FA Cup and get promoted through the play-offs. Only in football do things like this happen.
“Obviously the club need a bit of luck along the way but there are the players in the squad and the strength in depth capable of getting some real momentum going.
“Promotion has to be the priority but a trip to Wembley in the FA Cup would be a real bonus for the supporters and something they would enjoy. Why can’t they win the cup? So many strange things have happened in the competition, you just never know.”
Leeds themselves have their own play-off ambitions, having moved ahead of Rovers with their midweek win over Blackpool, with Wilcox saying their recent plight shows how hard it can be to regain top flight status.
He believes Leeds’ past plummet from the Premier League can’t be compared to Rovers’ recent troubles but does think it proves the size of the challenge ahead.
He said: “The difference between Leeds and Rovers was that Leeds massively overspent when they were relegated. Rovers didn’t, in fact it was probably the reverse.
“What Leeds’ situation has shown though is how easy it can be to continue the slide and drop down the divisions and how long it can take to get back up.
“Leeds are a massive football club, as Blackburn Rovers are, and both will feel they belong in the Premier League. That is easier said than done though.
“Leeds will be a tough test for Rovers this weekend. They have a great support and will still be gunning for a place in the play-offs as well. It will be a tough one to call.”
Wilcox made more than 300 appearances for Rovers between 1986 and 1999, having signed for the club as a schoolboy, and helped them into the Premier League before winning it in 1995.
He went on to make almost 100 league appearances for Leeds and featured in their UEFA Cup and Champions League runs to the semi finals, before suffering the drop with the Whites.
Since retiring in 2006, Wilcox has been searching for a route back into the game and, with coaching badges to his name, he was handed an opportunity at Manchester City in the summer.
“I always knew I would get back in the game at some point, it is something I always wanted,” he said.
“If you speak to any of the managers I have played under, I am sure they would all tell you I was inquisitive and always wanted to learn about the game.
“It was just a case of when it was going to happen. For a long time I was almost waiting for the opportunity to come to me rather than searching for it.
“I realised I needed to start putting my neck on the line and start looking for an opportunity myself rather than wait for it to come to me.
“There are that many players coming out of the game these days that if you wait for something to happen, you will be waiting forever.”